Executive Director’s Report: A 10-Year Retrospective on SRNT’s 20th Anniversary
It’s hard to believe, but I have been with SRNT nearly 10 of its 20 years in existence! It seems like only yesterday that I traveled to Michigan to meet with then-President Ken Warner (as well as founding President Ovide Pomerleau) to find out what the heck this organization was about. Having spent the previous 12 years working with credit union associations at both the state and national levels, SRNT represented an entirely new career challenge.
And what a happy/exciting/rewarding challenge it has turned out to be! Here are some highlights of the growth SRNT has experienced over the course of its second decade:
In response to the divergent needs of SRNT’s member-constituent groups, the SRNT Board of Directors created six topical Networks in 2009 (a seventh has since been added). Following the model of Professional Sections and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) found in similar societies, the three main functions of Networks are: to provide networking, educational, and professional growth opportunities to SRNT members according to area of research interest; to look at SRNT, organizationally, through their respective network lenses and recommend improvements, new programs, or activities to the Board; and to be the eyes and ears of SRNT, identifying external opportunities for organizational comment, outreach, or other involvement. With the recent addition of staff to support the Networks, I believe these groups represent the Society’s future, providing invaluable guidance and input to the Board—and a more meaningful membership experience for Network participants—that will result in a stronger, more vibrant association across all research disciplines.
In 2010 SRNT began a new tradition—presidential visits with key stakeholders in Washington, D.C. Early each summer the SRNT president and I attend a series of meetings with groups that have included FDA, NIDA, NCI, American Legacy Foundation, Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research, American Cancer Society, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. These meetings are beneficial for all involved. SRNT gets to hear about the new projects and priorities of its partners, and they get to learn a little more about SRNT and how we might work together to achieve mutual goals. SRNT has also joined the Friends of NIDA and Partners for Effective Tobacco Policy, a coalition that includes Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association, as well as other organizational friends in Washington.
One of SRNT’s longer-term goals—to expand its role in informing public health policy—was advanced in partnership with the National Cancer Institute several years ago when NCI commissioned two series of white papers. The first identified research gaps related to FDA’s new role in regulating the tobacco industry in the U.S., and the second identified research gaps in Article 14 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Both groups of papers were published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research and have been widely cited, guiding funders as well as academic/scientific institutions looking for new areas to expand research. Also in the public policy arena, SRNT co-sponsored a Citizen’s Petition asking FDA to review packaging and labeling requirements for, and retail availability of, NRT. More recently, SRNT has been engaging with FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, responding to requests for information on topics such as menthol, NRT, and non-combustible tobacco products. SRNT has also actively encouraged member participation in the FDA’s docket process.
With members in more than 40 countries around the world, perhaps the area in which I’ve seen the most growth has been international, an organizational priority when I came on board in 2004. Since that time SRNT has:
· Assisted with the “birth” of its first formal chapter (SRNT-Europe, which is now an independent organization chartered in the UK);
· Seated two presidents from Europe and appointed two European members as Editor-in-Chief of Nicotine & Tobacco Research;
· Elected Board members from Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, India, South Africa, Switzerland, and the two Uniteds (Kingdom and States);
· Sponsored three nicotine/tobacco conferences in Latin America (and a fourth this coming March);
· Sponsored one nicotine/tobacco conference in Asia;
· Participated in three World Conferences on Tobacco OR Health;
· Held the Annual Meeting once in Canada and twice outside North America, the latter in partnership with SRNT-Europe (Prague in 2005 and Dublin in 2009). The Annual Meeting will return to Europe—Florence, Italy—in 2017;
· Created the Global Health Network to more effectively respond to the needs of researchers in lower- and middle-income countries;
· Revised its dues and conference fee structures to recognize income disparities in nations around the globe;
· Received recognition from WHO for www.treatobacco.net, the multi-language online resource for the international treatment community, as one of only two such resources specifically mentioned in the FCTC Article 14 guidelines (it should also be noted that the number of users has increased from 14,338 to 104,551 over the past decade); and
· Committed to the long-term growth of its membership in underrepresented regions, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Looking ahead at the next 10 years, SRNT will continue on the path of growth and expanded programs, services, and organizational activities thanks in large part to a fully engaged membership and leadership team that, during 2011 and 2012, undertook a comprehensive strategic planning process. In addition to recommitting to its primary role as a scientific society and professional home for nicotine and tobacco researchers around the world, SRNT reconfirmed its commitment to the next generation of researchers and its organizational goal of becoming a truly global society. As the landscape begins to change with the FDA’s regulatory authority over the tobacco industry in the U.S. and as countries in middle- and lower-income regions of the world start to tackle anti-tobacco legislation, SRNT will take a much more active role in both informing and influencing tobacco regulation. Not only will SRNT be home to our scientific community, we aim to become its collective voice.
With 29 years in association management under my belt, the past (almost) 10 years at SRNT are unquestionably the highlight. It continues to be my honor—and my sincere pleasure—to work with the dedicated volunteer leaders and members of this outstanding organization, which will impact public health on a global scale for many years to come.
Happy 20th anniversary, SRNT! Here’s to the next 20 years!